Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

14 January 1997



Iraq "Oil-for-Food" Formula Implemented, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Sanctions Lifted;
Debates Held on Afghanistan, Jerusalem Incident, Lebanon

The Security Council, on 13 December, recommended Kofi Annan to the General Assembly for appointment as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations for a term of office from 1 January 1997 to 31 December 2001, the culmination of a year in which the Council faced crises ranging from the Balkans and the Caucasus to the Great Lakes region of Africa, as well as questions on the Korean peninsula, the downing of two American civilian aircraft by the Cuban Air Force and the situation in the Middle East.


Middle East

The situation in the occupied Arab territories was the subject of a 27 September orientation debate during which 50 representatives addressed Israel's opening of an entrance to a tunnel near the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem and the shooting by Israeli forces of Palestinians protesting the action. Many speakers, some of whom were foreign ministers, called on Israel to close the tunnel, lift its closure of the occupied Arab territories and refrain from increasing settlements there.

Following that debate, the Council adopted resolution 1073 (1996) on 28 September -- by a vote of 14 in favour to none against, with 1 abstention (United States) -- calling for a reversal of all acts which had aggravated the situation in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Earlier in the year, at a 15 April meeting in response to the security measures Israel imposed on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, most of the 38 speakers who addressed the Council called for an end to those measures, after describing them as a form of collective punishment that threatened the Middle East peace process. Several speakers said that such measures, as the demolition of houses, the confiscation of land and restrictions on the movement of people and goods, strengthened the hands of extremists on both sides who were calling for violence to undermine peace.

Addressing the Council, the representative of Israel said that during eight days in February and March, Islamic fundamentalist terrorists from the West Bank and Gaza had perpetrated four separate suicide bombings within Israel, leaving 59 dead and 200 injured. His Government had closed Israel to West Bank and Gaza residents to restore a sense of security for an Israel that would continue to pursue peace and security and to fight the "dark forces of terrorism and fanaticism".

Later that day, 32 speakers addressed a Council meeting on the Israeli bombardment of towns in Lebanon, including the suburbs of Beirut. In a letter asking for the meeting, Lebanon's representative said the attacks killed, wounded or displaced thousands of persons and caused severe damage to property. He asked the Council to order Israel to stop its aggression and help Lebanon's recovery from the attacks. The representative of Israel said his country's Defence Forces were hitting back at Hezbollah strongholds after exhausting all political and diplomatic means. Israel had to defend its security by all necessary measures, if Lebanon could not control Hezbollah's acts, he emphasized.

Three days later, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 1052 (1996) seeking an immediate cessation of hostilities, after rejecting an Arab- sponsored draft that would have strongly condemned the Israeli aggression. Sponsored by 19 Arab States, it received only 4 votes in favour (China, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia) to none against, with 11 abstentions. Resolution 1052 also deplored the 18 April shelling that caused a heavy loss of civilian lives at the Qana site of UNIFIL. In other action, the Council extended the mandate of UNIFIL until 31 January by resolution 1068 (1995) of 30 July 1996, which also welcomed the streamlining of UNIFIL to 4,483 troops.

As for the neighbouring United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Syrian Golan, the Council adopted resolutions 1057 (1996) of 30 May and 1081 (1996) of 27 November to extend its mandate, six months at a time, until 31 May 1997.

The Council's handling of matters in the Middle East, particularly the hostilities in Lebanon, led to a meeting of the General Assembly in resumed session, under its agenda item on the situation in the Middle East.

Addressing the Assembly on 23 April, President Elias Hraoui of Lebanon said, "How could the Israeli people, once the victims of Auschwitz, Treblinka and others, accept that its State massacre more than a hundred men, women and children who were all innocent civilians in Qana that was once visited by Christ and was a scene of His miracles?" The representative of Israel said his country's goal was to create a situation where the Hezbollah could not renew terrorist attacks against it.

The Chairman of the Arab Group for the month of April, the representative of the United Arab Emirates, said that convening the meeting showed the international community's rejection of Israeli aggression, adding that it should adopt a resolution condemning it and adopting measures to end it. The representative of the United States said she would vote against the draft text circulating in the Assembly and expressed the hope the Assembly would endorse Council resolution 1052 (1996) without embroidery. "If the Assembly took action on a different resolution, it would be a divided house, a United Nations speaking with two voices and with no clear direction", she added.

The Assembly, on 25 April, condemned Israel's attacks, adopting a resolution to that effect by a vote of 64 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 65 abstentions.


* *** *
For information media - not an official record